October 4, 2023

Shortly after the election of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), in 2015, I wrote a piece with the title: “Why failure is no option for Buhari.”

In the essay, published on June 4, 2015, I inferred from the Yoruba worldview that life is classified into three different seasons, signifying the three main parts of the day- morning, afternoon, and night.

The piece explained further: “Although they pray for the best for each of these seasons, the Yoruba are united in the conclusion that while the first two seasons of life may be full of thorns and thistles, the last part–the night, should harbour the best. That the latter part of life (night) should show more fruitfulness than the earlier parts is one prayer that you are most likely to find on the mouth of everyone of Yoruba descent. If President Muhammadu Buhari were a Yoruba man, this would be one major thought on his mind.”

 Apart from the fact that Buhari was 72 in 2015, he was military head of the country 31 years earlier. Then, he was just 41. If a man returns to the same seat three decades later, he should deliver extraordinary results. This is even more so because the country had made little progress since he last superintended. More than this, however, Buhari craved Nigeria’s presidency, probably more than anyone else in the country’s history.

In the First Republic, leader of the Northern People’s Congress and Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, should have become the prime minister since his party won majority seats in the December 1959 parliamentary election. But he ceded the office to Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. In the Second Republic, Shehu Shagari did not aspire higher than the Senate, but he ended up as president, unprepared. Chief Ernest Shonekan was lured out of the boardroom by a military politician who still wanted a foot in the door. Before 1999, Olusegun Obasanjo, despite his experience and connections, thought all, including life, was over for him until a conspiracy plucked him out of jail and foisted him on us. OBJ persuaded an unwilling (and unwell) Umaru Yar’Adua to take over from him in 2007. President Goodluck Jonathan did not imagine that the heavens could bless him with anything grander than his nomination as Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, but providence elevated him into the substantive governorship seat. And before he exhausted his tenure, he found himself in the belly of Aso Rock, first as Vice-President to Yar’Adua and then President after the untimely transition of his principal. Jonathan’s ascendancy to national recognition from his provincial endowment was courtesy of a benefactor who gifts you cattle but holds on to the rope to tie it.

Thus, Buhari is the first and only President to date who, by himself, came to seek the throne. He fought for it a record four times before it happened and I did not think anyone does that without a mission and knowing how to accomplish it. I also did not see how such a man would not do good for the country, if only for his legacy.

 And like a man whose eyes are on history, Buhari promised to change Nigeria by restoring the country’s pride in three broad areas. He committed to revamping the economy; fighting corruption to a standstill, and making the country more secure.

Well, eight years down the line, the jury is in, and has returned a verdict, which is clear to all.

 Telltale signs of the President’s failure on the economy stare us in the face. The current scarcity of even the country’s currency is an unprecedented aberration. Also, the scandalous scarcity of petrol, galloping inflation and the swelling number of poor people in the country. It is also unheard of that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited has not remitted monies into the country’s coffers for months unending. This is because of the untold quantum of money the government claims to pay on subsidy and the criminal theft of crude in the country.

 Now, no matter what anyone says, these are avoidable junctures that the country should never have reached. Nigeria is only here because the government failed to take the right decisions at the right time, or at all, in some circumstances.

 The situation is the same concerning corruption and insecurity. The subsidy regime, which President Buhari extended by suspending the implementation of the Petroleum Industry Act in January 2022, is arguably Nigeria’s most entrenched corruption cesspool currently. That is not to speak about the immediate past Accountant General of the Federation’s over N100bn heist. Insecurity has also escalated from an insurgency in the North-East to secessionist agitations, kidnapping, ritual killings, and banditry literally in every part of the country.

So, any objective assessment of the agenda Buhari set for himself, would return an unqualified failure result. That is not to speak of the expectations of the people.

Many of the President associates blame the current state of affairs on certain unnamed advisors. But that is wrong. Even though leaders need people with industry and superior perspectives to sharpen their ideas, every leader must come to the party with a credible and workable vision. This is Buhari’s main incapacity.

The President came into office with a limited understanding of modern governance. And worse than that, he has remained unteachable, rejecting revolutionary ideas that contradict his conception of how things should be.

Take the refineries and removal of subsidy, for instance. That the status quo remains today is on the President and his conviction about how the state should run! On the record, he has received quality advice about what to do, but went against them. So, if anyone can truly manipulate Buhari, they can only do it in line with what they know to be his proclivities and preferences.

 For instance, the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Governor, Godwin Emefiele, met with the President after the Supreme Court judgement restrained the government from implementing the CBN’s February 10 deadline for the swapping of the old naira notes with the new ones. Neither the presidency nor the CBN issued any statement on the meeting until Monday when Emefiele hinted that there would be no going on the deadline. The question then is, can the CBN governor choose to disregard the court order and the Council of State’s advice all by himself? The answer is of course, no. It is therefore unlikely that much of the floundering of the past eight years resulted from anyone but the president himself. And this to the utter disappointment of Nigerians.

 But the coming elections present Buhari with a great opportunity for self-redemption. As the world did with his immediate predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, ensuring free, fair, peaceful elections is the only remaining way the President can etch his name in positive history.

Doing his best to give Nigeria a good election includes reining in close people allegedly bent on undermining his party’s candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. If there is any truth in the allegation, Buhari owes Nigeria the duty of stopping the perpetrators in their tracks. Every candidate has the right to aspire, and the choice of who becomes President should be that of the people.

 Buhari should therefore see that all 18 candidates have confidence in the process and that the election management agency, security agencies and agents of state have firm instructions to play by the standards.

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